As a recent re-pat to New Zealand, I regularly browse the message boards on Facebook pages for those who are returning to the country. A great place for advice, support and letting off steam, I’ve noticed a common thread to many of the “NZ life isn’t for me” posts, and it’s something worth discussing – lack of community.
If you’ve ever moved to a new town, city or country before, you’ll know first-hand the struggle to build new connections. And, if you’ve never moved before, you’ll likely find this the hardest part of starting your new life abroad. The loneliness of finding yourself in a new country without a safety net of friends and family can impact you in ways you might never have expected, even if you’re a fairly solitary person.
In today’s article, we’ll discuss how to avoid this isolation by being proactive in building connections and community in a new country.
The Loneliness Issue
There will be some people reading this who have never struggled with loneliness in their life. People who can make new friends at the grocery store or while standing in line at their local cafe. This article isn’t aimed at those people. This article is for those of us who are “slow burners”, whose friendships are more often formed over long periods, and who chit-chat doesn’t always come easy.
If this is you, it’s worth being aware that when moving to a new country, there’s going to be some very lonely periods until you’ve built up your network. But, with these tips, you can help speed along the process.
How To Make Friends In A New Country
Making friends as an adult is so much harder than most people expect, especially if you’re not a naturally extroverted person. Try these ideas to begin building those connections that will lead to friendships and help you feel more rooted to your new home.
Become A Familiar Face
In the early days, just having a few familiar faces can make a big difference to how connected you feel to your new home. By frequenting the same coffee shop and being friendly with the staff at the nearest convenience store, you’ll soon begin to feel like part of the furniture.
If you have children in school, get as involved as possible. Joining the PTA might not seem like a lot of fun, but it’s a great way to meet people you’ll automatically have something in common with.
Work can be one of the best places to start meeting new people, but depending on your industry and role, this isn’t always possible. If you have the option to work from home, try out a local coworking space, which offers that same opportunity to meet people.
Join A Club
Pick a club, any club. It could be a sport, hobby or lifestyle group of any kind – just choose something that interests you. A recurring event that you attend with people that share the same interests as you has a great likelihood of you making friends.
Support The Community
Get involved in your new area and meet more of your neighbours by joining in with local community activities such as litter picking events.
It can be difficult putting yourself out there, particularly if you move to a close-knit area where everyone seems to have established social groups. Put yourself out there and before you know it, you’ll be the one welcoming new people into your community.
Sarah Todhunter is a writer, mother-of-two and a dual citizen of New Zealand and the UK. As the sole proprietor of Fyxen Copywriters, she has navigated the ups and downs of moving a business and family across hemispheres, sharing the lessons she’s learned along the way. Find her on LinkedIn or anywhere good coffee is served.